Statutes and Statutory Interpretation: Retroactivity

MONTANA SUPREME COURT DECISIONS
Dempsey v. Allstate Ins. Co. [12/30/04] 2004 MT 391 All civil decisions of the Montana Supreme Court apply retroactively to cases pending on direct review or not yet final (or settled), unless a party proves all three of the factors stated in Chevron v. Oil Co. v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 92 S.Ct. 349, 30 L.Ed.2d 296 (1971). Consistent with Harper v. Virginia Dep’t of Taxation, 509 U.S. 86, 113 S.Ct. 2510, 125 L.Ed.2d 74 (1993), the Montana Supreme Court finds that limiting a rule of law to its prospective application generally creates an arbitrary distinction between litigants based merely on the timing of their claims, though the Court reserves the possibility of prospective application per Chevron where all three Chevron factors apply. In other cases, when a decision issues, the line should be drawn between claims that are final and those that are not (the line drawn in Harper).
 
WORKERS' COMPENSATION COURT DECISIONS
Flynn v. Montana State Fund [07/01/10] 2010 MTWCC 20 For purposes of determining the retroactive application of a workers’ compensation judicial decision, a claim that has been “paid in full” is one in which all benefits to which a claimant is entitled pursuant to the applicable statutes are paid prior to the issuance of a judicial decision.  A claim is no longer “paid in full” if any benefits are paid after the issuance of a judicial decision and is subject to retroactive application of the decision.
Fleming v. International Paper Co. [07/08/05] 2005 MTWCC 35 The rule that statutes are not retroactive unless the legislature expressly provides for retroactivity is inapplicable to statutes of limitation since such statutes are procedural and their application to claims and actions brought after their effective dates do not constitute retroactive applications.
Hardgrove v. Transportation Ins. Co. [8/13/03] 2003 MTWCC 57 The repealer of a statute of repose in the Occupational Disease Act which is expressly made applicable to exposures occurring after the enactment of the repealer by its plain terms does not apply to exposures occurring before the enactment. Thus, the 1985 repeal of subsection 39-72-403(3), MCA, is inapplicable to an occupational disease claim where the occupational exposure ceased prior to the repeal. [Affirmed in Hardgrove v. Transportation Ins. Co., 2004 MT 340 (No. 03-678).
C. Loney Concrete Construction, Inc. v. ERD, UEF [8/15/97] 1998 MT 230 Supreme Court holds that the WCC correctly interpreted the definition of temporary employee within section 39-71-116(24), MCA (1991) without regard to amendments to that section made by the 1995 Montana Legislature well after the transaction at issue. As is well-settled, the law in existence at the time of the action in question is controlling in workers' compensation matters.

Seger v. Magnum Oil, Inc. [10/29/99] 1999 MTWCC 67 Self-insured employer's motion to dismiss injured worker's claim for denial of reemployment preference under section 39-71-317, MCA (1999) denied. Although employer argued WCC lacked jurisdiction, section 39-71-317, MCA (1999) gives the WCC "exclusive jurisdiction to administer or resolve a dispute concerning the reemployment preference." Even though claimant's injury occurred prior to passage of the 1999 statute, the WCC has jurisdiction where precedent indicates legislatures may change the forum for resolution of pending disputes without enacting a "retroactive" law. Although the WCC was initially concerned the change in jurisdiction may impact an accrued substantive right to jury trial, further consideration indicates the reemployment preference is a creation of statute to which no right to jury trial attached.

Pittsley v. State Fund [7/31/98] 1998 MTWCC 61A ARM 24.29.720, an administrative rule adopted by DOL to specify employee expenses which are not wages, was by its own terms effective only commencing January 1, 1993. Where sawyer's injury, and the relevant four pay periods preceding injury, occurred before the rule's effective date, the rule's specification that rental value of timber falling equipment not exceeding $22.50 per day could be excluded from wage rate was not applicable to computation of his wage rate. Even if the rule were not express in its date of application, regulations, like statutes, are subject to the general rule against retroactive application.
Maggs v. State Compensation Ins. Fund [05/16/95] 1995 MTWCC 36 Where Wolfe v. Webb, 251 Mont. 217, 226-227 (1992) holds that a statute changing the forum authorized to resolve a particular dispute is a procedural change applying to cases that arose prior to the change, the 1989 statute applies to claimant’s 1991 claim, with that statute conferring original jurisdiction on the Department of Labor and Industry to resolve claimant’s argument that the insurer is estopped from relying on the one-year claim-filing statute of limitations of section 39-71-601, MCA (1989).